Saving forever, p.28
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       Saving Forever, p.28

         Part #3 of The Ever Trilogy series by Jasinda Wilder
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  He was moving hard and fast now, his face sliding near mine, his breath coming in gasps, his cock filling me. I felt him thicken and harden more, if that was possible, and I felt his rhythm stutter.

  "Oh, god, Ev. I'm coming..."

  "That's it," I gasped. "Come inside me. Let me have it all. I'm close, too, baby, so don't stop after you come. Keep fucking me until I come again."

  He slammed deep, once, and then thrust his hips flush against my ass and ground against me, growling and thrusting desperately. I felt him release inside me, felt him fill me with a gush of liquid heat, and I felt my core clench. His hand reached between my body and the bed, cupped my boob and squeezed it, then found my nipple as he started to move again, his throbbing cock moving inside me slow and deep. He was softening, but was still hard, and I moved against him, milking him for all I could, feeling my inside tense and coil.

  He took both of my tits in his hands and pinched my nipples hard enough to make me gasp, twisting them until I writhed, and he moved with me, groaning and whispering my name.

  "Ev. Ev. God, baby, come again for me. Let me feel it, right now."

  As if his words were a command, I exploded on him, crushing back against him. He released my nipples as I shrieked my orgasm, flicking them with his fingertips, and I felt everything inside me come apart, detonate, implode.

  "Yes, Ev. Yes. Just like that. God, you're so beautiful when you come. I love hearing the sounds you make." He kept moving in me, with me, until I shuddered and went still. "I love you so much, Ev. So fucking much."

  He pulled out of me, and then helped me climb onto the bed. He pulled me into the nook of his arm, and kissed my temple. I turned my face to catch his lips, pressed a long, slow kiss. "That was what I needed. Just you. Us, just like that."

  "Me, too."

  I crashed then, weak and limp and deliriously happy, if only temporarily.

  I was awakened sometime around mid-afternoon by a text alert. Eden: Can you and Caden come over? I have something to talk to you about.

  I sighed, not wanting to let go of the illusion of perfect peace Caden and I had created. We'd made love twice more, sleeping in between and enjoying the kind of bare, unfiltered pillow talk that only comes during the afterglow of intense sex.

  Sure. Be there soon. I sent the text and then showed it to Cade, who'd been watching me with my phone.

  He sighed deeply. "Okay, let's go. Probably should shower, though."

  I giggled. "Yeah, probably. We both stink like sex."

  He grabbed me by the waist and pulled me on top of him. "It's a good stink, though. I love the way you smell after we've been fucking all day."

  I breathed in his scent. "I love it, too." I rested my head on his chest. "I don't want to get up. I want to stay here. Get you hard again."

  He growled. "Don't tempt me."

  I shifted my hips to brush my core against him. I felt him hardening against me. "Too late."

  He rolled us over until he was on top of me. "Now you're gonna get it."

  "Oh, good," I breathed. "I was hoping I would."

  He pushed into me, slick and hard. "How is it this feels better every time? No matter how many times I do it, sliding into you never ceases to feel exponentially better than the time before."

  "That's called true love, I think." I held onto his ass as he moved, slowly and gently and rhythmically. "Just like this, yeah. Slow and gentle."

  We came almost right away that time. Silently, breathing each other's breath, eating gasps and swallowing sighs, we clung together and shook.

  When the shuddering after-quakes subsided, we climbed out of bed and took turns showering.

  Twenty minutes later, we were sitting on the floor of Eden's house, playing with the baby, laughing as she kicked her little legs and pawed the air with her little hands. Eden sat in the corner of the couch, watching us, Carter perched on the arm of the couch. They were holding hands, her palm resting on his thigh, his fingers tangled in hers.

  With a deep breath, Eden spoke. "I've been thinking a lot. About everything." She closed her eyes briefly, as if summoning courage. "And I've come to a decision. Please--please don't say anything until I'm done, because this is really hard for me to say."

  Cade and I exchanged worried glances. "We're listening," I said. "And--whatever it is you've decided, I love you, Edie. No matter what. Okay?"

  Eden nodded. "I know. And I love you. That's why I think this For all of us." Her eyes went to the baby, who, as far as I knew, didn't have a name yet. "It's about her. I think--I think--"

  She cut herself off with one sharp hyperventilating breath. Carter squeezed her hand, and then moved his palm in circles on her back, brushing her hair out of the way.

  Eden started again. She spoke without taking her eyes off the baby cooing on the floor. "I think you and Caden should adopt her."

  Nothing could have surprised me more. My eyes misted, and tears fell. "What? You want--Eden, why?"

  Eden was fighting tears, too. "Be--because she should have been yours. If not for the accident, you'd probably have a baby by now. And...and--Jesus, I didn't think this would be this hard." She tipped her head back and wiped at her eyes. Leveled a look at me that spoke of renewed determination. "She should be yours. Yours to name. To raise."

  "Eden," I said, searching for any kind of words, "I--are you sure? I mean, she's--she's your daughter."

  Eden shook her head. "No, that's just it. It doesn't feel...I don't feel like she belongs to me." A sob shook her. "I haven't felt like she's mine, not from the very beginning. And not now. It's tearing me up inside, Ev. You don't even know. I--I can't raise her. She's yours. Yours and--and Caden's." Her eyes went, for the first time, to Caden. "It's the only...the only way."

  Cade's voice rumbled as if from the bottom of a well. "You want us to raise her, or to adopt her legally?"


  "That's a huge decision, Eden." Cade looked down at the baby. "For you. For us. And most of all, for her."

  "I know. But I think it's right. For all of us." She looked up at Carter, as if for courage. "I'm not ready for this. For parenthood. And you'll never be able to--to have this. You could adopt, or foster. won't be the same. This is your blood, Ever."

  "She'll have so many questions," Cade said. "I don't know if I could ever answer them."

  "We'll all handle that when the time comes," I said. "Regardless of whether we do this or not, she'd have questions as she got older. She looks so much like you, Cade, that no one could ever mistake her for anything but your daughter. She looks like us, too," I gestured at Eden and me, "and that eventually would lead to questions. We don't have to have the answers now, though. She's just a baby."

  Caden glanced at Carter. "What do you think about all this?"

  Carter didn't answer for a long time. "It's not my decision, not in any way. I'll say what I said to Eden when she told me her idea: a child deserves the best possible chance at life. Eden believes that's with you two. This isn't an easy situation, not for anyone involved. But you have to think about what's best for her," he nodded at the baby, "before anything else."

  "We need to think about this, talk about it," Cade answered for both of us.

  "Obviously." Eden shifted forward off the couch and sat by me, watching as the baby wiggled and kicked. "I just want her to be happy. To have the best possible life. Two parents who love her. And--if I'm going to be brutally honest--I'm not sure I can be that. I don't know why. I don't know what's wrong with me, but...I need to do the best thing for her. And it seems like this is it."

  I leaned in to hug Eden, and she fell against me, wrapped her arms around me. "I love you so much, Eden. I missed you. I wondered every single day where you were. Why you'd left. I understand now, and--and I can't lose you again." I pulled back to look at her. "Tell me honestly, and think about it hard: if we adopted her, could you look at us, and her, and not...wish? Wonder? Resent us, maybe? You know us, and you know we'd always be around each
other. Our families would be together all the time. You'd see her, and--"

  "And I'd know I gave her the best thing I could. You and Cade." She took my hand in hers. "I probably will wonder, sometimes. If I did the right thing. But...I know, right now, in my gut, that this is right."

  I glanced over at Caden, who was bouncing the baby on his knee, one hand splayed at her neck to support her head. He nodded at me. "Let us think about it. Okay?"

  Eden nodded. "Of course."

  I stood up, and Carter rose to his feet, the baby in his arms. He gave her to Eden, who sat down on the couch once more with her. "We'll see you soon, okay?"

  "'Bye." Eden watched us go, looking relieved, yet still filled with turmoil.

  Instead of driving back to the Old Mission Inn, we walked along the beach, ending up almost a mile from Eden's house, staring out at the sun as it lowered toward the bay.

  I stood at the water's edge, my heart and mind whirling.

  Caden stood beside me, took my hand, and looked at me. "What are you thinking?"

  I shrugged. "Too much." I laughed. "It's kind of chaotic in my head right now."

  "Mine, too."

  "Let's boil it down to o-ne word answers, based on initial reaction." He turned to face me, taking both of my hands in his. "We'll think about, talk about it, sleep on it. But right now, what are you thinking? Yes, or no?"

  I met his amber gaze with mine. "Yes. First thought? Yes." I watched his reaction. "You?"

  He nodded, looked out at the rippling golden water. "Me, too. Yes."

  "Are we crazy?"

  He laughed. "Probably. But...have our lives ever made sense?"

  I shook my head, laughing with him. "No. Not really."

  "So this would just be one more chapter. And...god, this might sound even crazier, but the first moment I walked into that house and held that little baby, I--" Cade ducked his head, sucked in a breath. "I loved her. I didn't want to let go of her. I wanted to--watch her. Just keep watching her."

  "It's not crazy," I told him. "I felt the same way. Immediately, just--something clicked."

  We walked slowly back to the car in silence, each of us lost in our own thoughts.

  We didn't discuss it again until after we'd gone to the Peninsula Grill for dinner and then returned to the inn. I'd been turning things over and over in my head all day, almost obsessively, trying to picture Cade and me as parents. Imagining taking that little bundle of warm baby home with us. Changing diapers. Feeding. Waking up at all hours of the night. First days of school. Backpacks and lunches, little friends coming over to play. A million things.

  And I could envision it. So easily.

  Every time I thought of her--of our lives with her--a name floated through my mind. Cade and I sat on our bed, him leaning against the headboard, me in front of him, resting back on his chest, between his knees. The TV was on, tuned to some prime time, basic cable feature film. Neither of us was really paying attention, though.

  I twisted back to look at Cade. "I know what her name is," I said.

  Cade shut off the TV and met my eyes. "Yeah? What?"


  He sighed, a long, slow breath. "Cadence." His eyes slid closed and then opened. "It's perfect."

  We both knew, by giving her a name, that we'd decided.


  going home

  They sat on my couch, holding hands, decision in their eyes. I couldn't bear to sit, to be still. I paced, and paced, until Ever stood up and caught me, grabbing my hands.

  She smiled. "Yes."

  I laughed, but it was almost a sob. "Yes?" Sick of crying, I choked it back.

  "Yes." Ever reached up and wiped a middle finger under my eye, brushing away a tear. "As long as you're absolutely sure."

  "I am." I breathed in, blinking hard. "It's not easy, but it's right."

  Carter spoke up. "What's right is rarely easy."

  Caden moved to stand beside Ever, curling an arm around her waist. "We've got a name for her."

  "You do?" I looked from one to the other. "What?"

  Ever spoke. "Cadence."

  I pulled away, fighting emotions. Of course, I instinctively found Carter, and found his arms waiting to hold me. "Cadence." I rested my face on his chest, looking over at the Pack-N-Play in the corner of the living room where the newly named Cadence lay sleeping. I watched her sleep, and I asked myself if I was really doing the right thing. I only found affirmation within. "It's perfect for her."

  Cadence stirred at that moment, giving a peep of waking-up displeasure, which turned to a full-throated wail. Ever left Caden's side in a rush, bent over the rail, and lifted her up, settling Cadence's face on her shoulder, bouncing and shushing and patting. Within seconds, Cadence had quieted, sleeping once more. The only way I ever got her to calm down was to feed her, and Ever had her quiet just by picking her up.

  I closed my eyes and turned my face into Carter's thick flannel shirt. He rubbed my shoulder blades with both hands, and I wondered if he understood the strange and chaotic mix of emotions running through me. I was happy, sad, relieved, sick at myself for being relieved, amazed and glad that Cadence had responded so perfectly to Ever. A little hurt by that same response--over everything, really--hoping I was making the right decision for the baby, and for myself.

  Carter's voice surprised me. "My dad's friend is a lawyer. I asked him about the legal side of things." He glanced down at me, assessing my reaction to his proactive action. I only smiled at him, grateful. "He called me this morning, and as soon as we give him the word, he can start the paperwork."

  I took a deep breath, held it, and then let it out. "Tell him to go ahead."

  "Are you sure?" Carter asked me.

  I nodded. "Yes. As sure as I can be."

  I watched Ever and Caden as Cadence nuzzled into Caden's chest when Ever passed her over to her daddy. The love and awe shining in Ever's eyes as she gazed at her husband and...and daughter, made my decision worth everything. Giving her up was hard. I knew it was for the best--for me, for Cadence, for Caden and Ever, but it was hard all the same. I'd carried her for nine months, gave birth to her, and I'd taken care of her for the last week and a half. I'd gotten used to the sounds of her crying in the middle of the night, used to the feel of her in the bed with me. As much as I didn't feel as if she really belonged to me, I was still...attached to her.

  It wasn't about whether I loved her or not--because I did, deeply. But...for me, she belonged to them. She was meant to be with them. They were her parents.

  I was making the right choice.

  It took two weeks and an emotional court appearance, and then Cadence Irene Monroe officially belonged to Ever and Caden. Over the past two weeks Ever stayed with me, basically taking over the care of Cadence. Cade, meanwhile, had returned to Royal Oak to get their condo ready for the homecoming. They'd picked out a crib, changing table, and dresser from a store in downtown Traverse, and the pieces were being shipped south. Ever had told him to turn her art studio into a bedroom, which I knew was a sacrifice for her, but she'd done it happily.

  "I can figure out somewhere else to paint. Or I can start working with watercolors, something that doesn't need so much ventilation and prep work." She'd shrugged. "It doesn't matter. Only this little girl matters." She nuzzled Cadence with her nose, cooing and babbling, so sweet and so happy it made my chest ache and my stomach flip.

  By the time the court hearing came around, Cade had the condo ready and had returned to Traverse City. Carter came with me to the hearing.

  I stood before the judge and acknowledged that I was giving up all parental rights, that I was doing so under my own free will. I signed a paper, and Ever and Caden signed as well. I watched Ever's pen swirl across the document, my heart swelling with both joy and sadness.

  And then the judge banged his gavel, and it was done.

  Outside the courtroom, Ever and Cade stood side by side. It was spring, late afternoon, the air cool but holding hints of warmth. B
irds chirped, squirrels chattered, and a long cold breeze blew off the lake. Cadence was in her carrier, sleeping.

  I knelt in front of her, kissed her nose, blinking away tears. "Goodbye, sweetheart." I blinked harder, but salt burned and liquid trickled down my cheeks anyway. There was so much I wished I could say, but nothing else came out. "I love you." It was the first time I'd said it to her.

  I stood up, wiping at my face.

  Ever grabbed me and held me in a long hug. "God, Edie. Are you okay?"

  I nodded. "Yeah." I breathed out, forcing a smile. "It's hard, but it's right. For you, and for her, most of all. It is. I know it is. Doesn't mean it's not hard."

  "Are you coming back to Royal Oak?" I knew the question had been on her lips for weeks.

  "Not yet. Maybe at some point. I need--I need some time for me now." I kissed her cheek. "But I'll visit."

  "We'll visit," Carter corrected, putting a hand on my back.

  I glanced over my shoulder at him, smiling shyly. "We'll visit."

  Ever looked between Carter and me. She hugged me close again, putting her lips to my ear. "He's hot," she whispered.

  I giggled, sniffing. "I know."

  "Does he make you happy?" She asked it out loud, shooting a meaningful glance at Carter.

  "He will. When I give him the chance." I laughed, grinning at him. "He's been...perfect. For real. I don't know what I would have done without him."

  Carter seemed uncomfortable. "I'll make her happy, if she'll let me."

  I slid away from Ever, toward Carter, happily accepting his arm around my waist, leaning into him. "And I'll let him."

  "Good." Ever faked a tough glare at Carter. "You'd better."

  Another goodbye hug to Ever, and an awkward, short embrace between Caden and me, and a shake of hands between Carter and both of them, and then they got into their green Jeep Cherokee. They drove away, with Cadence buckled firmly in place.

  I watched them go, and when they were out of sight, I sagged against Carter. "That was hard--harder than I'd ever imagined."

  He turned so I was buried in his chest, his arms around me, tight and safe and warm. "I know." He breathed a sigh. "Now let's go home."

  I nodded. "That sounds good."

  He hesitated. "I mean my home. My island."

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